« PreviousContinue »
communicated Dissenter! This is not clergy, there being, in fact, no proxi. an uncharitable prognostication, but is sion for recording the date of the grounded upon fact and experience, natural birth, which is therefore left to
By the statute 6 and 7 William III., other evidence, or to vague presump: duties were imposed upon marriages, tion as to the length of the interval births and burials, for carrying on the between the birth and baptism. The war against France with vigour; and by objections of the clergy on this point the 24th section, persons in holy orders, are the more unreasonable, as it has deans, parsons, &c., were, for better been solemnly decided that, according levying those duties, directed within to the canons of their own Church, their respective parishes, and to take lay-baptism is as valid as any sprinkan exact and true account, and keep ling by consecrated fingers. a register in writing of all persons If this union of the Church and married, buried, christened or born, State, of ecclesiastical and civil funeunder a penalty of £100.
ţions, is like the union of the ivy with By another Act, passed in the fol- the oak, to blast or check all wholelowing year, (7 and 8 William III. c. some improvement in the latter, the 35,) after reciting that divers children, more liberal adherents of the Church who were born within this kingdom, must admit that the treaty of alliance were not christened according to the needs some revision, and that the rites and ceremonies of the Church of complaints of their Dissenting fellowEngland, and many were christened subjects are not, to this extent at in private houses, nor were the pa- least, either selfish, frivolous or vexarents of such children obliged to give tious.
R. D. notice to their respective ministers, of the births of such children, for want Sir,
N adverting to the inquiry, so pointsons born was not kept, and many edly yet modestly proposed in a persons chargeable with the duties former Number, whether the ancient escaped payment: for remedy thereof Patriarchs and Israelites believed in it was enacted, that the parents of a future state, it may be observed, every child which should be born du- first, that the Christian Church in ring the continuance of the Acts should, general hath been on the affirmative within five days after such birth, give side of the question; and though this notice to the rector, vicar, curate or is not an absolute proof of the fact, clerk of the parish, of the day of the yet, in a case which involves po palpabirth of such child, under penalty of ble absurdity or contradiction, where 408., the which rector, &c., was re- it is impossible to prove a negative, quired to take an exact and true ac- and which admits at least of many count, and keep a distinct register of plausible reasons in its behalf, geneall persons so born and not christened, ral consent will operate as a consifor a fee of 6d., under a penalty of 40s. derable argument in its favour, since
It is wonderful that a regulation of it is found, that, in similar circumso much political utility should be stances, wise and reflecting men in all made dependant upon the continuance ages have thought nearly alike upon of a paltry tax; but, at any rate, we all great and important subjects. If, possess in these expired Acts that all- therefore, under the light of nature important ally, a precedent, in at- alone, such persons, reasoning from tempting, at some convenient oppor- the best ideas they could form of the tunity, to impose on the clergy the Divine perfectious and character, from duty of registering the births of all the present state of man, his fears and children within their parishes, without his hopes, his desires of continued exdistinction of sect, or at least to press istence, and his anticipations of futuupon them the alternative of perform- rity; principles which are not coning, efficiently the office of public fined to the learned and acute, but registrars, or of relinquishing it alto- are to be found, in different degrees, gether. It is matter of notoriety, that in the lowest and most degraded forms The Act, passed a few years ago, rela- of human society, and which will bid tive to parochial registers, was rendered defiance to all the opponents of natuvery imperfect in its operation through ral religion, whether sceptics or ultrathe intolerant scruples of some of the believers, to the end of time: if from
these principles, they arrived at con- sufficient to his own happiness, he hath siderable degrees of moral certainty in created me for happiness also; and this important point, for “God and though as yet I have had no particular nature," says Mr. Baxter," do nos revelation of the pumber of my days, thing in vain," it must surely appear I will trust in his infinite goodness strange, if the leading members of the and his infinite power, and entertain, primitive church of God, with the ad- with gratitude and joy, the full, the ditional aid of particular revelations delightful, the inestimable persuasion, and the occasional evidence of mira- that, while I continue to walk in the cles, should deem these supernatural paths which he hath preseribed, I shall interpositions as only intended to pro- continue to be a partaker, in my mea. mote a length of days in the earthly sure and degree, of his favour and of Canaan, and smooth their path through his immortality the present imperfect state, and leave But when Adain fell, these glorious them finally in the darkness and si- prospects were obscured; they were lence of the grave. They could at least obscured, but not obliterated or de. reason as well upon general principles stroyed. In strict law, indeed, he was as Cicero or Seneca, Plato or Epicte- utterly lost; and in him, consequently, tus, and the certainty of higher states all his supposed posterity; (the latter of existence and of superior beings, of not morally, but naturally ;) he was which they had absolute demonstran judicially consigned over to death, not, tion, would naturally elevate their as some suppose, to eternal torments, desires and expectations towards them.' which are not mentioned in the record, But let us briefly attend to the outlines but to death, which was the penalty of their history
annexed to the transgression : but When the great Protoplast was in- now mercy intervenes, the sentence troduced into Paradise, as, on the one is suspended, a mysterious promise of hand, he could lay no claim to immor- a restoration to himself and his race tality, so, on the other, he could enter- is promulgated, and the first sinner, tain no rational fear of dissolution, from a state of darkness and doubt while he maintained his allegiance and bordering on absolute despair, is im. integrity, and had continual access to mediately raised to a state of exalted " the tree of life," as a pledge or sym- hope and confidence in God. In these bol of the Divine favour, and of his circumstances, during the long course continued existence and happiness of his earthly pilgrimage, and probafor, being made perfect in his kind, bly favoured with further Divine comand favoured with frequent communi-munications of which we have no cations from above, he could not avoid account, his hopes would naturally forming the most enlarged, the most improve, and his prospects brighten. unlimited expectations from the Di. These sentiments would infallibly be vine bounty. To what end, would he transmitted to his posterity, and connaturally exclaim in the solemn season tinually receiving fresh accession and of devout meditation,-to what end increase ; for, “it is natural to suphath the Almighty called me from pose, that God having once spoken to nothing into being, and placed me man, mankind would retain and repeat in this fair and well-furnished world ? with great punctuality what had been To what end hath he endowed me said, and listen after more.” with such astonishing powers and ca In the time of Seth we read, that pacities, and rendered me superior to “wen began to call upon the name of the numerous tribes of animals with the Lord.” Then commenced the which I am surrounded ? Wherefore external distinction between the world bath he made me capable of contem- and the Church. The heads of pious plating himself, of adoring his perfec- families led the way, and "command tions, and of attaining to still higher ed their children and their households and higher degrees of conformity to after them :" nor is it too much to his moral image and likeness? Is it suppose, that they met together at that, after a few revolutions of the sea- stated times, for public worship and sons, I should lie down in the dust and return to my primitive non-existence? Impossible! Infinitely self . Robinson's Notes on Clande, Pref.
instruction, probably at the new righteousness," in opposition to the moons and on the sabbath-day, which errors and superstitions of the sursome have thought, as a day of rest, rounding nations, and to the false prowas instituted in Paradise. "We find, phets, the blind leaders and visionary soon after, that “ Enoch was trans- enthusiasts of their own land; the lated without seeing death;" and Jude pastors that "destroyed and scattered informs us, that he "prophesied" and the sheep,” instead of nourishing and preached to the people. Whether the sustaining them. sacred writer here refers to a genuine After the Mosaic law was commitdocument or to an apocryphal writ- ted to writing, it became the standard ing, the book itself existed long before of sound doctrine. In the course of Christianity, and the quotation proves time, synagogues were erected; and that Enoch, or the author of the book, "in the days of our Saviour, public (which is all one in this case,) believed preaching was universal ; synagogues " in the unity of God, and his natu- were multiplied; there were thirteen ral and moral perfections, the essen- at Tiberias, and at Jerusalem, they tial difference of moral good and evil, say, four hundred; including, perand a day of future, impartial retribu- haps, the proseuchas, or small places tion." Behold the Lord cometh for private prayer. We have only with his holy myriads.”* Noah, like- short memoirs, analyses or abridgwise, “was a preacher of righteous.. ments of the primitive sermons, which ness while the ark was preparing." were, doubtless, delivered more at In the frequent supernatural revela- large; but what is recorded is suffitions with which Abraham was favour- cient to prove, that they taught the ed, (called, in Scripture language, primitive truths of natural and of the which is never to be taken literally, then revealed religion, which included "talking with God, and seeing God, the necessity of repentance, of devoamong other tokens and assurances of tion and conformity to God, and the the Divine regard, it was announced, doctrine of a future Redeemer and that “ all the nations of the earth Restorer.” * should be blessed in him." Melchi Now supposing that there is no sedeck «
was a priest of the Most record in the Pentateuch sufficiently High God,” which, in the primitive explicit to prove, that the doctrine of sense, conveys an idea of every thing a future state constituted a part of the excellent and sublime, awful and al. public instructions of the patriarchs, luring! “How charming, upon a or of the law of Moses, as it was proprimitive mountain, beneath the shade claimed amidst the lightnings and of a venerable grove, the voice of a thunders of Sinai; yet, is not the proMelchisedeck, the father, the friend bability on the other side of the quesand priest of his people, publishing tion? Were not the mysterious progood tidings of salvation; and then, mises to Adam and to the father of the with holy hands, calling upon the faithful, to Moses and to the succeeding name of the Lord, the everlasting prophets, indicative, to their minds, at God!" +
least, of something greater and better Although “the law came by Mo- than mere earthly power and domises," both the moral and the cere- nion, prosperity and glory? What monial, enforced by additional divine were pardon of sin, conformity to sanctions; yet, in reality, Moses God, and a sense of his favour, if the preached and taught something be effects of them were to terminate with yond the law: he taught the essential the present state, and be finally lost goodness and placability of the Deity, in the land of darkness and forgetfulascertained by the symbol of sacrifices, ness? What did the sacred historian and the promise of a mediator and intend by his favourite phrase, that restorer, like unto himself. Pro- the primitive saints “ were gathered phets and seers, in succeeding ages of to their fathers”? Did he mean only, the church, were all “preachers of that their ashes should be mingled
together? Was this the ultimate hope * Robinsou's Notes on Clande, Pref. + Ibid.
* Robinson's Notes on Claude, Pref,
and expectation of an inspired pro- daced into it “ without seeing death," phet; of one who had such superior it was highly unreasonable to suppose, inanifestations of the Divine power and that the great mass of mankind should presence, as to have it recorded con- be overlooked; man being, by his very cerning him, that, in a celestial collo- nature, accountable, and the indiviquy, he "saw God face to face, and duals of his race, however differing conversed with him, as a man talketh from one another in external advanwith his friend"? When dying Jacobtages, in spiritual attainments and said to his beloved son Joseph, “ Be- moral qualities, tal
and capahold, I die; but God shall surely be city, yet from this very circumstance, with you, and bring you again to the as well as many others, partaking of land of your father 3;" was this all that a sameness or similarity which renders was intended? In the history of the them amenable to the tribunal of their Patriarchs we read, that, for the most Maker, who is not to be regarded only part, they were divested of their earthly in the awful sublimities of his naframes with little bodily suffering, and ture, his infinite power, wisdom and in a state of mind comparatively trane knowledge, but in unison with his quil and serene; but could this have inimitable excellencies and perfecpossibly been the case if eternal an- tions, his justice, mercy and goodRikilation had been before them; if ness, as the moral governor and final they had no prospect of a future re- judge of his rational offspring. compence, but, in the language of the Nor are the Jewish Scriptures so sceptic, were about to take a leap silent upon this subject as some supin the dark”? Life is, indeed, a great pose. Besides the passages above reblessing in proportion to its length ferred to, numerous texts' might be and atility; man, considered merely cited in favour of this opinion ; but as a rational animal, has enjoyments a few for the present may suffice. and privileges far above the brutes ; After the fall, Adam and his postevirtue gives much in hand, and much rity were placed (says Matt. Henry) in reversion, in the benefits we can “in a second state of probation, upon procure for ourselves, for our descen- new terms;" and the sum and subdants and for posterity; but still, stance of the new primitive law was the blank of death without the pro- comprised in the blessing and the curse spect of futurity draws a veil over all set before Cain, in these memorable our comforts, and must have chilled words: “ If thou doest well, shalt thou the devotion even of an Abraham or a not be accepted? And if thou doest Noah, a Moses or a Methuselah. not well, sin lieth at the door.” The
Moreover, the translations of Enoch succeeding Patriarchs lived under the and Elijah, in conjunction with the influence of these divine sanctions. successive visions and revelations from “Noah was a just man, and perfect Moses to Malachi, would combine to in his generation ;” and Abraham produce in their order, fresh argu was called the friend of God.” In inents in behalf of a future state; and the record of his death, the peculiar the former operate as a striking and expression first occurs, "he was gaindubitable proof of the reality of thered to his people,” a' phrase which such a state; a sensible encourage- seems to imply, at least, as before ment to their faith and hope, at least hinted, a deliverance from absolute in the minds of considering persons, death, and a safe conduct under the who would be zealous on all proper Divine kecping. Isaac, in blessing occasions to promote the influence of Jacob, implores for hiin" the blessing this grand and important principle; of Abraham, to him and to his offfor, by an easy inference and analogy, spring.” Jacob, in his last interview independent of abstract reasoning, with his children in the land of Egypt, they would be led to conclude, that if though in the prophetic spirit he among the leading and distinguished chiefly foretells temporal blessings characters of the ancient world, some, and events, yet does not confine himwithout controversy, were highly wor- self to these, but breaks out in the thy of a future existence, and two, nidst into á holy ejaculation,-"I as they had reason to believe, so sig- have waited for thy
salvation, O Lord.” nally favoured as to be actually intro. Moses, in his divine song, recited before
the elders of Israel, characterizes the tween Mr. Benson and the Elders, at Deity as the Rock, whose work is Chollerton. See the 13th Meeting ; perfect, whose ways are judgment, as concerning which the following is the a God of truth, and without iniquity, decision of the Classis : as the Father that had bought them, “ James Chorlton acknowledged that he made them and established them." had wronged Mr. Benson, and that he And had all these sentiments no re was sorry for it. This he was ordered to ference to futurity?
do by the Classis. When Moses died, it is said “the “The 17th Meeting at Manchester, Lord buried him, and no man knew March 80, 1647. of his sepulchre :” this, to a believing
“4. Henry Gregory and Richard Rogers Israelite, must have conveyed a pe- against Mr. Woolmer, minister there,
(Elder at Flixton) brought in a charge culiar and encouraging idea. As we
for clandestine marriages. proceed, we meet with numerous al
“ Mr. Woolmer to bee summoved to lusions and references to something the next Meeting. The said H. Gregory greater and better than mere earthly and R. Rogers to have warrant for witfelicity. In the prophecies, the Deity nesses. is represented as loving his people “5. Summons to be given to James " with an everlasting love,” far ex. Chorlton, Elder at Chollerton, to shew ceeding the love of parents to their cause why he doth not act as an Elder. infant offspring! A kingdom is de
“ 6. John Barlow, Elder at Chorlton, scribed, where the work of righteous- desired to give notice to Mr. Clayton, ness shall be peace, and the effect of minister of Didsbury, to shew cause at
the next Meeting, why he proceedeth uot righteousness, quietness and assurance
to election of Elders. for ever;" and Daniel saw a vision,
“ The 18th Meeting at Manchester, similar to that of John, where "the
April 59, 1648. Ancient of Days did sit, the judgment * 4. Mr. Angier desired to joyne with was set, and the books were opened;" Mr. Clayton to move the Elders elect at and he prophesied, that hereafter Didsbury to come and undertake the “some shall arise to everlasting life, worke, and to return answer thereof at and some to shame and lasting con- the next Meeting. tempt; and they that be wise shall “ 8. James Chorlton being called to shine as the brightness of the firma- shew cause why he doth not execute his ment, and they that turn many to office of Elder, alledged, that they have righteousness, as the stars for ever unfit, desires to be freed from his office.
never sitten as an Eldershipp, that he is and ever” !
The businesse differ'd till the next Clas(To be continued.)
sis, till Mr. Benson be acquainted therewith.
“ 10. Mr. Constantine being desired Account of the Establishment of Pres- to shew cause, why the government is byterianism in Manchester. not settled with them, answered, That No. III.
the Classis gave liberty to deferr it. Mr.
Angier and Mr. Harison are desired to (For Nos. I. and II., see Vol. XVI. pp. take cognizance of the causes, and repre387 and 528.)
sent them. SIR,
“ The 19th Meeting at Manchester, NOW send you further extracts
May 30, 1648.
« 16. Ouldham Congregation desire terian Classis, which I am sorry I the government at present, because of could not prepare sooner.
some obstructions, (though they be wil. “The 14th Meeting at Manchester, linge and desireouse of it, but they hope January 120, 1647.
those obstructions will shortly be re" 6. Mr. Constantine desired from the moved ; and they have tyme given till the Classis to warne Mr. Briggs to come to
next Classe, to see if those obstructions the Classis the next Meeting, 2d Feb. bee then removed. 1647.
“ The 20th Meeting at Manchester, “ The 15th Meeting at Manchester, June 14th, 1648. February 20, 1647."
“ 3. It was ordered that the businesse
concerninge the Congregation of Ouldham The greatest part of the minutes of shall be called upon the next Classe. this Meeting relate to the quarrel be * 4. Mr. Anthonie Allen desired Or